Why this game is intriguing: Things can go from zero to crazy in Dallas faster than anywhere else. All that optimism from the opening win over the Giants has dissipated, and even a strong showing and near-miss in Baltimore last week hasn't calmed nerves. There are no must-wins in Week 7, but a 2-4 record would surely send off alarm bells in Dallas. An injury to star runner DeMarco Murray doesn't help, but the Cowboys' other backs (headlined by Felix Jones) also ran wild on the Ravens last week. Against a Carolina Panthers unit ranked 23rd in total defense, Dallas should still put forth an efficient offensive effort.
What to watch: The Panthers certainly have had their issues during a 1-4 start, from Cam Newton's sophomore slump to tackling struggles to poor late-game execution. If the situation becomes tense late on Sunday, both teams will be worth watching. Have the Cowboys learned from last week's time-management problems? Has Newton found the necessary tools to remain calm when it all goes haywire at the end? It will be interesting to check out this injury-riddled Cowboys secondary against Newton, who can break down a defensive backfield with his legs. Are they disciplined enough to handle him?
After dominating in many ways in their latest loss, the Dallas Cowboys can't afford to dwell on their late-game blunders.
Dallas will try to avoid its first three-game losing streak since 2010 on Sunday when it visits the struggling Carolina Panthers.
Alone in last place in the NFC East, Dallas (2-3) is looking to forget about last Sunday's 31-29 defeat in Baltimore. Despite having the ball at the Baltimore 34 with 26 seconds left and a timeout remaining, the Cowboys managed only a 1-yard pass play and watched the seconds tick away before missing a 51-yard field goal.
"I know we missed the field goal and how close that was and how precious yardage was at the end of the day," wide receiver Kevin Ogletree said. "So getting back to the line of scrimmage, maybe getting the play called, I think this will all be great for us going forward in learning a lesson."
Dallas outgained the Ravens 481-316 and held the ball for more than 40 minutes.
"We make it abundantly clear that there are no such things as moral victories," coach Jason Garrett said. "This is a bottom-line business and we need to win ball games."
After running for 227 yards in Baltimore, Dallas will have to get its ground game going without leading rusher DeMarco Murray. The second-year starter is expected to miss Sunday's contest after suffering a sprained left foot against the Ravens.
Felix Jones, who had 92 yards rushing last week in his first extended action of 2012, is likely to get the majority of the carries.
Quarterback Tony Romo should have a chance to make some big plays against a Panthers defense that ranks 13th in the NFC with 377.0 yards allowed per game. Romo has thrown for 1,409 yards and completed 67.4 percent of his attempts, but leads the NFC with nine interceptions and trails only Browns rookie Brandon Weeden (10) for tops in the NFL.
Six of those have come in the team's two games in October, a month that's become a nightmare for the Cowboys. They're 1-9 in their last 10 in October.
Dallas has fared better against the Panthers (1-4), winning eight straight in the regular-season series and all four in Charlotte. The Cowboys have lost twice at Bank of America Stadium in the playoffs.
The Panthers, meanwhile, have had two weeks to fix an offense that's produced only 10 points in their last two home games. Cam Newton finished with career lows in completion percentage (41.4) and passing yards (141) in a 16-12 loss to the Seahawks on Oct. 7, with Carolina's only touchdown coming on a Captain Munnerlyn interception return.
Among NFC starters, Newton is ahead of only Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman and Seattle'sRussell Wilson with 1,154 passing yards. He ranks higher than only Chicago's Jay Cutler and Freeman in the conference rankings with a 58.8 completion percentage.
Even with the trio of DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert in the backfield, the Panthers are tied for 12th in the NFC in rushing attempts (128) and 10th in rushing yards (570). Newton leads the team on the ground with 209 yards and three touchdowns on 40 carries.
Getting the offense turned around could be difficult against a Dallas defense that leads the NFL in passing yards allowed per game (181.6) and ranks second in total yards (285.2). The Cowboys have given up more than 30 points in each of their last two games, though three of those TDs came with the defense on the sidelines.
Committing to the ground game figures to be key if the Panthers want to avoid a fourth straight loss. They're 7-1 when they run the ball 28 times or more since Newton's been under center, and 0-13 when they carry it 27 times or fewer.
"We have a sense of urgency," Tolbert said. "We don't have any more bye weeks. We're here, in this locker room, throughout the rest of the year. So we have to come out now and get a win."